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AIR Worldwide Corp.
Karen M. Clark had been an insurance company research associate for one year in 1983 when she began developing a simulation model to estimate property losses from hurricanes. Her original model, unveiled in 1986, became the basis for the AIR hurricane model. The following year, Ms. Clark formed AIR to extend the new technology to estimating losses caused by various natural catastrophes. Today, AIR not only offers models that estimate losses from all major natural catastrophes for 400 clients in 45 countries, it also has developed a terrorism model. In 2001, Ms. Clark was named Woman of the Year by the Assn. of Professional Insurance Women.
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "Most importantly, pick a career that they’re passionate about and that they truly enjoy doing. Then know your real strengths and how you can best leverage them. Work hard, do your best and never give up. Women have to juggle a lot of different things, so it also helps to maintain a positive can-do attitude," which is necessary in any industry a woman enters.
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: "The people in the industry who first believed in me and who were willing to buy into a new way of managing catastrophe risk. There were several, including James Stanard, a former CEO of Renaissance Re and before that an executive vp of F&G Re, and Gerald Radke, formerly president of Phoenix Re and currently chairman of PXRe. These two individuals were AIR’s first two clients and they taught me about reinsurance. AIR might not have survived the first few lean years without them.”
Ms. Clark also credited Michael Wacek, formerly an actuary with the E.W. Blanch Co. and currently CEO of Odyssey Re’s Americas division.
“Mike was the first person, other than myself, to become convinced of the industry’s need for scientific, engineering-based techniques for catastrophe risk assessment and management and he was a key force behind the development effort that resulted in the first probabilistic catastrophe model used by primary insurers."
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: "I would like the industry to be more forward thinking about how better data and sophisticated modeling techniques can be utilized to improve business and financial results on an ongoing basis. In general, the data quality problem extends beyond catastrophe modeling. It’s a challenge for the future to improve the quality of information going into key underwriting, pricing and risk management decisions."
Business Insurance's report on "Women to Watch" is our attempt to identify some of the women who are leading change in commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.